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Aligning Cloud Governance and Cloud Management

8 min read

Cloud governance is all about strategy, risk management, policies, and compliance. It’s the big-picture maestro that sets the rules of the game, ensuring everyone jumps through the regulatory hoops — whether financial, compliance-related, or as steps in your business strategy.

Cloud management, meanwhile, deals with day-to-day operations like resource deployment, performance monitoring, and maintenance. It ensures your cloud use plays by the rules — and that the rulebook actually helps you fulfill your business objectives.

Though they’re two distinct entities, governance and management are like my granddad and his easy chair: virtually inseparable and operating great as a unit. Governance is the cornerstone of a successful cloud strategy, but without effective management, you might as well be carving your plans in the sand at high tide.

Cloud governance and cloud management may seem like a potato/po-tah-to kind of thing, but their distinctions, intersections, and alignment within your organization are important. This article explores the (at times frictional) relationship between cloud governance and cloud management and shares strategies for maintaining peace and love between these processes.

Distinguishing Between Cloud Governance and Cloud Management

Cloud governance takes a bird’s eye view of your cloud use, tracking regulatory compliance, operational efficiency, security, and costs.

It’s about policy and strategy — the letter of the law, as far as cloud use goes. With governance, you’re taking a higher-level organizational view of your cloud use and ensuring it supports your business objectives and requirements.

Cloud management, on the other hand, is a boots-on-the-ground affair. It involves zooming into the granular aspects of day-to-day operations, like resource deployment, performance monitoring, and maintenance, all to ensure teams follow the rules that governance has laid out. And in a time where misconfiguration-related security incidents are on the rise, a thorough, effective cloud management strategy couldn’t be more critical.

This relationship isn’t a one-way street from governance to management. Instead, this duo engages in a perpetual feedback loop, constantly interacting and adjusting to achieve your ultimate business objectives. Cloud governance sets the tempo, outlining objectives and ensuring different cloud processes (and requirements) don’t interfere with each other. Then, cloud management ensures the cloud functions within these rules and meets business goals.

Cloud governance and management are complementary. And implementing them together sounds straightforward, right? Well, not always. Like so many abandoned New Year’s resolutions, bringing cloud governance and cloud management together is easier said than done.

The Intersection and Challenges of Cloud Governance and Cloud Management

Trying to align cloud governance and management can be like trying to zipper merge: You know you’re all trying to go in the same direction, and doing so should be seamless. But more often than not, you’re trapped in a lane where no one knows when it’s their turn to go. Next thing you know, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place (or maybe a sedan and a guardrail), just waiting for someone to let you merge. It’s frictional, bumpy, and, quite frankly, the worst.

Making cloud use effective requires cloud governance and management to coalesce so you can achieve business goals. However, just like with the zipper merge, sometimes the objectives and requirements of your cloud governance strategy don’t mesh with cloud management, leading to frustration, organizational breakdowns, and possibly some road rage.

Some Challenges of Aligning Cloud Governance and Cloud Management

The strategic direction that governance sets may sometimes conflict with cloud management teams’ practical, day-to-day realities. It’s tough to strike a balance between being a rule-abiding worker and a productive one.

For instance, a policy to reduce cloud costs could compromise the operational efficiency and performance of applications running in the cloud environment, leaving teams feeling stuck.

Differing priorities and perspectives can compound these challenges. Cloud governance might prioritize data security over cost efficiency due to regulatory requirements, whereas cloud management might focus more on maintaining operational efficiency and cost optimization. These divergent objectives can create tension and misunderstandings, hampering your organization’s ability to maximize the value of its cloud investments.

Another potential friction point revolves around regulatory compliance. Cloud governance is pivotal in ensuring compliance with regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States. It establishes the necessary policies and procedures that safeguard the security and privacy of data held in the cloud. However, the effective implementation of these policies falls under the purview of cloud management, meaning hands-on teams are responsible for meeting these high-level, high-risk requirements.

(Talk about pressure!)

So how do you overcome these hurdles? How can you align cloud governance and management within your organization?

Overcoming Friction Between Cloud Governance and Cloud Management

The keys to easing the friction between cloud governance and cloud management are recognizing their interdependent relationship, maintaining open and continuous dialogue, and striking a balance between governance policies and management realities.

Including governance and management teams in the planning process can also help reduce friction. Governance should establish strategic directions and solicit feedback from management to ensure the strategic policies are practical and feasible. At the same time, management should proactively provide insights from the operational front to inform governance policies.

Taking a leaf from industry-standard guidelines, like those from the Cloud Security Alliance or ISO/IEC 38500 standards, is a great place to start. They provide a referential guide outlining structures and processes that align IT with strategic business goals.

But it’s not just about following a roadmap: It’s also about fostering good communication and ensuring that governance policies understand (and reflect) the operational challenges of the management team — and vice-versa. A study by MIT Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) showed that firms with a shared understanding between governance and management enjoy a 25% higher profit margin than their competitors.

That’s right: It pays for everyone to get along.

Another piece of the harmony puzzle is the clear delineation of roles. Imagine playing on a soccer team where everyone decides to play goalkeeper. Chaos, right? Good luck winning that way (even if you do make a few extra saves).

The same applies to cloud governance and management. Everyone should know their position on the field, their responsibilities, and who they’re passing the ball to. A clear playbook of roles and responsibilities paves the way for the efficient execution of tasks and strategic decision-making.

The Benefits of Effective Cloud Governance and Management

An aligned cloud governance and management strategy unlocks a Little Mermaid-style trove of benefits:

  • Improved compliance — A robust cloud governance framework and effective cloud management practices can help organizations meet regulatory requirements and industry standards. A well-aligned governance and management strategy ensures your organization stays on the right side of the law — and the auditors!
  • Increased efficiency — Like a well-oiled machine, an aligned cloud environment gets things done faster, better, and with less waste. With proper governance controls and policies, you can optimize resource utilization, automate workflows, and improve scalability.
  • Cost management and optimization — An effective governance and management strategy can help prevent the dreaded bill shock from cloud spending. With centralized governance and management practices, you gain better visibility into cloud usage, resource allocation, and spending.

These benefits illustrate the power of a well-aligned cloud governance and management strategy in maximizing the value of your cloud investments.

Real-World Examples of Successful Cloud Governance and Management Interactions

You might think, “This all sounds great, but the proof is in the pudding.” We feel you and completely agree, so here are some real-world examples of how organizations have successfully aligned cloud governance and management. Presenting: the pudding (spoon sold separately).

AWS’ Cloud Center of Excellence

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has documented examples of customers' success using a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE), a dedicated entity within an organization to foster AWS knowledge and define best practices. It adopts a decentralized governance model, striking the right balance between control (safety) and innovation (agility).

A fine example of this is the AWS Well-Architected Framework. The framework builds on six pillars, all of which allow AWS to align its architecture with best practices:

  • Operational excellence
  • Reliability
  • Performance
  • Security
  • Sustainability
  • Cost optimization

One key aspect of AWS’ strategy is its bottom-up approach. The CCoE involves the “builders” — those implementing and managing cloud services — when defining new principles or practices.

The CCoE also pushes to create shared services, separating duties and responsibilities and centralizing cross-project services. Doing so provides a single point of control overseeing all the comings and goings within the cloud.

As a result of this well-orchestrated alignment, organizations have enjoyed improved operational efficiency, cost savings, robust safety measures, and agile response to the ever-evolving cloud landscape.

Azure’s Disciplines of Cloud Governance

Azure is another maestro, conducting an elaborate symphony based on their Cloud Adoption Framework’s “Five Disciplines of Cloud Governance.” Azure has successfully aligned cloud governance and management practices by implementing strategies based on the five disciplines of the Cloud Adoption Framework:

  • Cost management
  • Security baseline
  • Identify baseline
  • Resource consistency
  • Deployment acceleration

These strategies align cloud governance and management practices, enabling organizations to effectively manage costs, enhance security, ensure consistent identity management, maintain resource configuration standards, and accelerate deployment activities.

Conclusion

Cloud governance and cloud management steer your organization’s cloud strategy with finesse. While governance sets the tempo and tone with rules and compliance guidelines, management navigates the nuances of these rules to ensure operational success. Organizations need to understand the unique attributes of both to create perfect harmony.

The road to unity may initially seem like a winding path. But with understanding, communication, and adherence to industry-standard guidelines, you’ll soon find yourself a veritable Leonard Bernstein of conducting cloud strategy. Continue to educate yourself, review your organization’s practices critically, and tune your strategy for a seamless cloud experience.

Learn more about effective strategies for aligning your organization’s cloud governance and management practices.

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